Louisiana Update #5: Flood victims encouraged to preregister for DSNAP benefits 

DSNAP is being activated for the August 2016 Louisiana Flood and means that rural markets should be prepared to see a influx of folks new to SNAP benefits. Unfortunately, many of our smaller, volunteer-led markets are still deciding whether to become SNAP authorized.
Here are the markets in Louisiana currently authorized as SNAP retailers (of course, some farm stands may also be authorized and are not included in this list):
Abita Springs Farmer’s Market Abita Springs
Cane River Green Market Natchitoches
Capstone Farmers Market 5007 New Orleans
Common Ground Health Clinic-Farmers Market New Orleans
Creole Market New Iberia
Crescent City Farmers Market New Orleans (4 locations)
Inglewood Harvest Barn Alexandria
Lafayette Farmers And Artisans Market Lafayette
Leesville Main Street Market Leesville
Market On LaSalle New Orleans
Marketplace at Armstrong Park New Orleans
Ruston Farmers Market Ruston
Oberlin Farmers’ Market Oberlin
Pearl River Farmers Market Pearl River
Red Stick Farmers Market Baton Rouge (2 locations plus mobile market)
Sankofa Farmers Market New Orleans
Shreveport Farmers’ Market Shreveport
Winn Farmers Market Winnfield

This list contains a few that my information indicates are not currently active and a few of these (9 of the 22) are in New Orleans which is  not near enough to the flooded zone to help most folks.
Since the state has about 80 farmers markets listed in various places, the above list shows how ill-prepared the state’s markets are to absorb these new shoppers.

Of course, some of the markets in Mississippi can also serve this clientele as many of the parishes hit hard are close to the state line; that is, if the benefit users are aware of the rules and where the markets are in MS and if those markets are prepared to accept those temporary SNAP users.

My experience as Deputy Director of Market Umbrella before and after Hurricanes Katrina/Rita (and on staff still during the BP oil spill) showed how much markets can do during disasters to offer solace, community and healthy choices to people under enormous stress. We were one of the few places in New Orleans up and running in 2005 (we reopened November 22) with EBT access, working with our fellow markets* across the area to help producers recover and doing our best to help other outlets open in our city.

From the very beginning in 1995, the founders of our markets had hoped to attract a significant number of at-risk shoppers, but as they opened in the era of EBT, the market was on the wrong side of technology for many years. As a result though, our 2004/2005 SNAP pilot strategy was relatively well thought out and predicated on the reality that our markets had not yet attracted their share of low-income shoppers but had the potential to serve that group as well as the cash shoppers we had attracted. Our token pilot led to the visit in the summer of 2005 of Bill Ludwig and the Southwest Regional FNS staff with then Under Secretary of Agriculture Eric Bost in tow to see and celebrate our early SNAP token and incentive work. Interestingly, Ludwig remarked during the visit on how helpful a token system might be during disasters. As we wrote a few years later, we remembered that comment later in 2005 and reflected on prescient he had been.
That long preparation meant we had outreach and materials to use when the levee breaks and oil spills and floods came (yeah we’re getting used to it) and the staff trained to make it happen.
So what we now know is the ability to support the citizens of towns and cities to recover from a major disaster requires organizational sophistication and preparation, which most of our newly emerging markets across the state are still working to achieve.

It is time for the national market field to create a toolkit for disaster planning, both for its vendors but also for its market organizers in order to be prepared when (not if) a situation like the one unfolding in Louisiana hits their area. USDA and FNS can be very helpful in this planning with needed policy changes such as lifting the requirement of location-specific SNAP licensing/transactions, loosening the ban on on-site hot food again (as was done in past disasters). It would also be helpful for funders like the innovative Wholesome Wave to increase their incentive work for disaster-hit areas along the lines of the incentive we created together for the Gulf Coast fishers in 2010.

Let’s get ready, folks.

How DSNAP works:
If you already receive SNAP benefits and are eligible for disaster benefits, you do not need to pre-register, as benefits will be added to your benefit card automatically.

Pre-registering does not guarantee benefits. DSNAP is only administered after a federally declared disaster and after the state receives approval from the United States Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Services to activate DSNAP services.After a disaster is declared, residents who have pre-registered only need to visit a DSNAP issuance site to verify their information and identity, determine final eligibility and receive their benefit cards. Eligibility requirements and DSNAP locations will be announced at the time of a disaster.

You may name an Authorized Representative to go to a DSNAP site on your behalf. Accommodations will be made for the elderly and those with disabilities to reduce on-site wait times.The Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services  is encouraging those who have experienced loss or damage in the severe storms and flooding to preregister for benefits under the Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (DSNAP).

DSNAP benefits are issued for one month, but they can be used for up to 365 days.  You will get your card when you go to the site, they will be loaded on the card within 3 days.
What amount will I receive in DSNAP benefits?

Household Size DSNAP Allotment
1 $194
2 $357
3 $511
4 $649
5 $771
6 $925
7 $1022
8 $1169
Each Additional Member  +$146

Source: Flood victims in Louisiana encouraged to preregister for DSNAP benefits | New Orleans – WDSU Home





*Deep appreciation for our colleagues at the Red Stick, Covington and Gretna farmers markets who, in 2005, were incredibly helpful to Market Umbrella and offered temporary spots to our vendors and help to our staff as needed.

Louisiana Update #4: Telethon for Second Harvest Food Bank: donate at www.no-hunger.org

Louisiana Update #3: Anglers, hunters crucial to rescue efforts

This was also the story after the levee breaks of Katrina; the fishers came into the city and rescued scores of people and were the “eyes on the streets” during those dark days.
During this August 2016 flood, authorities have been overwhelmed and caught by surprise by the force and treachery of the rushing water and forced to wait while fishers who know how to maneuver and how to gauge currents could begin rescues. For example, it was reported on Sunday with hundreds of people trapped on I-12 since Saturday, the Louisiana State Patrol had no water equipment to get past the water on the highway and needed to either wait for other rescuers to arrive or for the water to subside.
Just another reason to honor the rural/urban connection that has been maintained through initiatives like farmers markets.#CajunNavy



Call to arms on social media attracts 60 boats.

Jared Serigne would be the first to admit most of his Facebook interaction doesn’t involve life-or-death matters. The St. Bernard resident uses the social-media forum to share hunting and fishing information with a network of “friends,” many of whom he’s never even met.

But the Hurricane Katrina survivor knew things were going to be different when he signed into the site Saturday morning.

“I woke up and saw one report of people flooded in Zachary, and I knew then it was going to be bad, so I made the decision to go,” Serigne said.

Serigne hitched up his boat, and prepared to kiss his wife and young son goodbye, but before he did, he put up a post on Facebook, letting his friends know his plans.

Within minutes, he was bombarded by messages, texts and emails from close buddies and mere Facebook friends who wanted to join his effort. Many were from St. Bernard, but others from Houma and Thibodaux joined the mission.

In all, Serigne’s call to arms attracted 60 South Louisiana residents willing to tow their boats into a dangerous situation to ease the suffering of their fellow men and women.


Taste, sip, learn: Farm to Table Experience

What: A three-day event, with tastings, talks, hands-on workshops, receptions and meals sponsored by the National Farm to Table Alliance, the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry and the New Orleans Convention Center, which promotes sustainable local farms, food safety as well as supports communication between home cooks, brewers and wine makers as well as chefs and other food professionals and policy makers.

Where: New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, 900 Convention Center Blvd.

When: Aug. 18-20.

Ticket price: Half-day registration is $49, full-day $79, two-day $129 and full conference $169. Separate tickets are required for the food and drinks events: The Garden & Glass reception on Aug. 18, $69; the bistro lunches each day, $29; the Lunch & Learn session, Aug. 19 and 20, $49; and the Chefs Taste Challenge Dinner on Aug. 19, start at $129.

F2T website


To register: For all events, except the Chefs Tasting Challenge, visit f2texperience.com, call 504.582.3072 or send an email to info@f2te.com. To register for the Chefs Tasting Challenge, visit chefstastechallenge.com.


Peach festival organizers ignore farmers market held at same time

For those of you who look for the TL;DR: A well-organized peach festival was held with no mention in their materials about the weekly farmers market held in same town. Is this indicative of the relationship between annual events and weekly farmers markets?

As a past Louisiana market manager, Ruston is a farming community I was already familiar with even before I began to work with them on two current projects. (Let me say that I haven’t spoken to the market folks at all about this post or asked for their opinion on the festival; this is my observation alone.)
I know that Ruston-area peaches are synonymous with the highest quality Louisiana peaches. Imagine my surprise that while there last season, I saw few peaches on the vendors’ tables. I asked market board members about the lack and their response was that is quite difficult to find direct marketing farmers with local fruit willing to sell at market, as most of it goes to larger distribution centers. So when I saw news this week of the Louisiana Peach Festival being held on a market day in the very same town, I expected the festival organizers would highlight the local farmers market, and do their level best to encourage residents attending the festival to visit.
That would seem to be incorrect.

Here is the list of events for the Peach Festival:
Contestants vie for Miss Dixie Gem Peach and Princess Peach
Beta Sigma Phi Arts & Crafts Show
Peach Art Exhibit
Peach Hunt
Baby Photo Contest
Peach Cookery
Quilt & Fiber Art Show and Sale
$1000 Prize Cobbler Gobbler Eating Contest
“A Peach of My Heart” Parade
Peach Stops
BMX & Skateboard Show
Lincoln Parish Park Kids’ Fishing Tournament
Games & Rides
Kids’ Activity Tent
Diaper Derby
5K Run/Walk
Tennis Tournament
Bass Tournament

Now some of those events may indirectly include market vendors or even the market area but no direct connection is listed. On the festival’s Facebook page, there is no mention of the market, even of the added peach events listed on the market’s FB page (along with a link to the festival site):

We are having FREE giveaways every hour this Saturday!! Peaches from Thompson’s Farm, more peaches and homemade peach pie from @annayakspies, peach BBQ sauce from @murphysb.b.q , and of course delicious peach goodies from @rosemarys.kitchen // 8-12 Ruston Farmers Market

This is not that surprising to me, based on experience. My markets were affected by events that we often learned about at the last minute. At times, these events completely surrounded the market, severely limiting the sales for the day. I have also seen this happen at the “country” market that I also frequent which is surrounded by a highly regarded art festival a few times per year and yet is not promoted in the materials.

You might surmise that I am anti-special event and pro-market in all cases, but it is important to note that I also managed events through the market organization, including off-site seafood events (White Boot Brigades) and a holiday market that had some festival qualities held cheek-to-jowl to the Saturday farmers market called “Festivus, the Holiday Market for the Rest of Us.” Festivus began as a way to bolster sagging sales at the farmers market during December and its development was encouraged by the market vendors. However, the market vendors realized after the first year that the Festivus attendees were not also shopping at the market ( how often do you shop for holiday gifts and dairy at the same place and same time?) and by the second year, it was evident to the organization that Festivus could not be held in the adjoining street without severely hampering the market. The third year was 3 months after the 2005 Katrina/levee disaster and since the Saturday market was not yet running, we held Festivus to great success in the market lot.

The final two years of its run, we moved it to Sunday which was a disappointment for the Festivus vendors even though we had great attendance, partly because it was held on “Saints Sundays” in the football-frenzy years directly before the Saints Super Bowl win, and because the vendors were not directly part of the farmers market community which for many was one reason they wanted to vend at Festivus.
I remember one Festivus vendor angrily asking me why we had decided to move Festivus to Sundays. I shared how the farmers market community had been the ones who built this empty parking lot into a vibrant town square year round and their input had to matter (along with the data we collected about sales and shopper type) and all of the input suggested that Festivus did not help the farmers market. The vendor heard me out and replied, “So what? It helps us.” I had no rejoinder to that.
So maybe my story is an example of how festivals and markets cannot work together, but I like to think that if the levee disaster had not happened, I would have continued to figure out Festivus’ sweet spot and turned it into a long term event. (Instead, we stopped it after 5 wildly fun and successful years to focus on post-disaster food production issues.)

What we learned from that was that it was vital that the different characteristics of festivals, fairs and markets (which all are valid and valiant types of activities) are understood by leaders and their attendees. That all of them serve important purposes but not always at the same time or in the same way. That leads to the questions that I continue to raise with markets and other leaders:

Can festivals and markets be held on the same day, in the same area to the success of both?

What is the best way to share the different goals of each with attendees?

How can organizers be sure that their vendors get the results that they need?

Can annual and of weekly events planners measure impact together?

I’d sure like to know.

Ruston Farmers Market

La Peach Festival

New Louisiana governor installs chicken coop at mansion

Edwards said he installed the coop to “get back to a sense of normalcy.”
“It’s extremely nice,” Edwards said of the new coop, which was built by professionals (paid for entirely out of the Governor’s pocket, according to WWLTV reporter Eric Paulsen) and matches the color scheme of the Governor’s Mansion. Upon returning home from a day’s work, he said, he makes sure to check in on his chickens. .

(Paulsen FB post): Governor John Bel Edwards said he wanted chickens at the Governors Mansion and he now has them. This is his chicken coop behind the Mansion. He has 16 chicks that he hopes will soon be supplying fresh eggs for his family and friends. I guess these are Louisiana’s “first chickens”.


Source: Gov. Edwards’ chicken coop sparks ‘firestorm’ on Facebook

See an American town that’s about to be completely lost to climate change.

The Jean Charles band of Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw lived in the same place for more than 200 years. But now it’s almost entirely washed away.

By the middle of the 20th century, there were nearly 400 people living on the island. At that point, the land was 11 miles long and five miles wide — providing this Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw tribe with 55 square miles of lush, open land on which to hunt, farm, and thrive.

But all that’s left today is a half square mile of marshland — two miles long and a quarter-mile wide — with two dozen families struggling to survive. The island’s remaining residents still speak their own colloquial French-Cajun dialect and work as fishermen, oystermen, and fur trappers to survive. But ecological damage has made that work hard to come by too.